The Challenge 36

Episode 1 Recap – This Means Danger

Joseph Hadaway recaps all the action from the premiere.

Photo: MTV

“I think this guy means danger,” says Ultimate Beastmasters’ Nam Vo as host TJ Lavin lands down in Iceland via a helicopter, and for The Challenge status quo, that couldn’t be more true. There is danger, and for the former Challenge champs on Double Agents, they need to watch their backs.

The premiere of The Challenge: Double Agents ended with the house (led by Leroy Garrett and Kam Williams) voting in former champions Ashley Mitchell and Chris “CT” Tamburello. While challenge winners Aneesa Ferreira and Faysal “Fessy” Shafaat nominated former champion Wes Bergmann and Survivor winner Natalie Anderson to go against them, starting this season with a true battle of the champions.

When TJ declared the challenge as a female elimination day, Natalie and Ashley went head to head, and Natalie came out victorious, earning her the first Golden Skull and sending Millionaire Mitchell out first. But how did the tides turn so quickly against three of the four The Challenge champions and Survivor veteran Natalie?

Let’s get into the episode…

Mission Decryption

The season opens right in the action (if you ignore the pre-season special Double Agents Declassified, which showed the cast meeting each other), with a competition where individuals must race up a volcanic dune to wrestle for a colored tube. Then they must memorize the sequence of colors on the tube and duplicate it at their station.

Olympian Lolo Jones immediately impresses, literally leaping over the dune in a single step. However, it’s Aneesa—on her FOURTEENTH season of The Challenge without a win—who is able to win the challenge and get her first pick of a partner, which turns out to be Fessy.

Photo: MTV

Everybody else is forced to partner up on the spot, taking them back to high school days when choosing a science class lab partner. This method of partner selection lets a lot of the strategies play out in real-time, giving the people who are naturally aggressive with their partner selections get their ideal partners. There is a race from many of the girls (including Kam) to get CT. And friends Cory Wharton/Tori Deal, Kyle Christie/Nany Gonzalez, and Devin Walker-Molaghan/Nicole Zanatta pairing off quickly. 

CT ends up picking co-Invasion partner Ashley, and Wes finds kinship with Survivor’s Natalie, creating two extremely strong partnerships from the get-go. Both the Big Brother (Fessy, Josh Martinez, Kaycee Clark, and Amber Borzotra) alliance and Leroy & Kam realize that spreading out amongst partnerships would be a good idea, while the remaining rookies team up with each other, somehow leading to two of the most athletic people that The Challenge has ever seen (Lolo/Nam) somehow being picked last.  

The Format

TJ then reveals the format of the season. Every week, everybody will compete in pairs. The winning pair will become “the Double Agents” and be immune from elimination. Everybody will then individually vote for one pair to get voted into The Crater. The Double Agents will then get to select another team to compete against them in The Crater. The winner of The Crater will receive a Gold Skull, while the losers will be eliminated.  

The House  

After this announcement, Wes proposes that the traditional Challenge status-quo holds firm and the veterans target former WWE superstar Lio Rush and his partner Gabby Allen. However, the two champion pairings of CT/Ashley and Wes/Natalie do not go unnoticed by the house, particularly Kam and Leroy.

On the heels of Total Madness, where Johnny Bananas successfully won his seventh Challenge after cruising through the rest of the season, there was no chance that the champions would have an easy time this season—especially considering Kam and Leroy have historically made finals just to lose to previous champions. And with CT’s snub of Kam, the decision to target the only two champion team of CT/Ashley became obvious. 

The Challenge 36
Photo: MTV

With the help of the Big Brother alliance and the rookies, CT/Ashley are able to be voted out almost unanimously, with 22 out of 28 votes. CT/Ashley and Wes/Natalie are the only two pairs in the minority.

The real loss for the champions occurs at the deliberation, where CT attempts to intimidate the veterans into voting to keep him. This leads to him being rebuffed by rookies Liv Jawando and Lio, indicating that the power and respect that CT once had over this house is long gone. 

The Crater

After the first “compromised” team is announced, the teams all head to The Crater, where Aneesa and Fessy decide to target the other champions, sending Wes and Natalie against them.

However, TJ announces after the nominations that it is a girls elimination week, meaning that only Natalie and Ashley will compete. The winner will receive the first Gold Skull, and the loser will be eliminated. Having a Gold Skull is the only way a player can compete in the season’s Final challenge to determine the overall champion. 

Natalie A
Photo: MTV

Natalie and Ashley compete in “Operation Fire Escape,” where they are bound by their arms and legs over a pole and forced to cross a beam. Despite Ashley putting up a good effort, Natalie proves why she so effortlessly dominated the Edge of Extinction and eliminates Ashley, sending the first champion home.

The Twist

At the end of the episode, TJ reveals one more twist for the remaining contestants. The winner of eliminations is able to steal any (opposite-gender, not a double agent) partner to form their new team. Natalie now has power in the game.

Who will she pick? Find out next time!

Written by

Joseph Hadaway

Joseph Holopainen-Hadaway is an Australian/Finnish/Filipino (long story) business graduate, who currently lives in London despite studying a law degree in Sydney (longer story). A life-long reality-tv fan with hot takes on everything from Santas in the Barn to Beauty and the Geek Australia, he has been a superfan of The Challenge and Survivor for nearly a decade. You can follow him on @josephhadaway on Twitter or @ilosttheway on Instagram.

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